Developing home ground connections

Waitaki’s Lowe and Purvis families have teamed up to tap into Oamaru’s ‘‘humming’’ real estate...
Waitaki’s Lowe and Purvis families have teamed up to tap into Oamaru’s ‘‘humming’’ real estate market; Grant Purvis (left) of Herbert, daughters Brooke (12) and Holly (9), and wife Vikki Purvis (centre) with Brian Lowe, of Oamaru, his son Mike Lowe and Mike’s partner Kristina Levings, of Oamaru, are the team behind a planned 50-lot subdivision at the top of Holmes Hill. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
After living in Austin, Texas, population 1million, the thought of returning to Otago ‘‘just wasn’t quite right’’ for Oamaru’s Mike Lowe. But he is now back in his home town, where he is working with his father and a childhood friend. Hamish MacLean reports.

With earthworks under way, sections at Holmes Hill Estate in Wansbeck St could be for sale in a few months.

The roughly 8ha former Oamaru lifestyle block is being converted into a 50-section subdivision, a similar size and scope to nearby Waiareka Park in Weston Rd - a project started by the same local team in March 2017.

Growing up, Oamaru's Mike Lowe never held ambitions of becoming a developer.

In fact, he laughed at the suggestion this week.

"To be fair, since I was about third form in school, I always thought I was going to be a dairy farmer," Mr Lowe said.

"I always worked on farms, and always kind of thought that was what I was going to do."

The 33-year-old, former St Joseph's School and St Kevin's College pupil, went on to Otago University where he studied finance and accounting.

And after a stint at Deloitte, in Dunedin, like many other Kiwis, he took off to travel.

He landed in Austin, Texas, where he played rugby, before shifting to Auckland, living there for four years.

"I'd been in Austin, been in the big city, I thought coming back to Oamaru or Dunedin just wasn't quite right. So, I thought I'd try Auckland for a bit," he said.

But, soon after, Mr Lowe and his "old man", Brian, made their first foray into selling house and land packages at Dove Place - a subdivision that created a cul-de-sac at the end of Dove Pl on Holmes Hill.

"In lots of ways, I think the reason we work so well is because we're quite different. He's the practical guy, and I'm in the office. And neither of us would be very good at the other one. But we're good at what we do.

"I think Dove Pl is a nice area - it's a pretty good community too, there's a good group of people in there.

"Dove Pl was a road that was already built, and just cut off, and we kind of tacked on a cul-de-sac.

"There wasn't a lot of room for us to put our own spin on it."

Waiareka Park, and the subsequent Holmes Hill Estate, were able to be designed from "scratch".

"As a developer, that's what you want. Because then you can set the tone for the whole community."

The Lowes brought on board an old family friend, Grant Purvis, of Herbert, for Waiareka Park, and Holmes Hill Estate.

While trying to balance work in Auckland and Oamaru, the scales tipped back towards home and Mr Lowe returned to live in Oamaru in April last year.

Oamaru's market "seems to be humming along pretty nicely", Mr Lowe said, but it was different from nearby markets exploding with holiday homes, and the sections in the subdivisions were attracting a range of buyers: first-home buyers and empty-nesters were both finding homes.

Average section sizes in both subdivisions were 700sqm to 800sqm, but there was "a real mix", and sections in the subdivisions ranged from 400sqm to 1200sqm.

"That's the interesting thing about Oamaru, the market is so small that there isn't really a type," he said.

"You can't design a whole subdivision around one market, because it will take years to sell."

But the tendency for few pre-sales in Oamaru - as "people wanted to see it before they buy" - could also be changing, based on sales at Waiareka Park, Mr Lowe said.

"It probably helped that we had done a subdivision before. People knew it was the same people doing it, so we had a bit of a track record, I suppose.

"You can imagine what Oamaru is like, it's a small town, it's all about your reputation."

Waiareka Park's stage 1 got titles in November 2017, and Holmes Hill Estate is expected to get titles in early 2020.

Work at Holmes Hill would not begin in earnest until after winter.

The main entrance and exit to the subdivision would be through a new intersection off Wansbeck St, that road running through the properties and connecting at Glendale Cres.

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